St John’s Red Storm
Head Coach: Chris Mullin (4th season) – 2017-18 Record: 16-17 (4-14) – Big East
Game: December 1st, 2018 (HoopHall Miami Invitational – American Airlines Arena – Miami, FL )
Head coach Profile:
Former NBA great and Basketball Hall of Famer Chris Mullin is entering his fourth season with the Red Storm in 2018-19 and is looking for another season of improvements out of St John’s program. After winning just eight games in his first season, Mullin has seen the Red Storm win 14 and 16 games in each of the last two seasons. He’ll look to get the Red Storm to over the .500 mark this season.
St John’s was one of the most unpredictable teams in college basketball last season. While they struggled in conference play, the Red Storm entered conference play last year with a 10-2 record but struggled immensely through conference play just picking up four wins. However two of their six wins after December 20th came against #4 Duke and the eventual national champions Villanova who at the time were the top-ranked team in the nation.
As mentioned above, the Red Storm cruised through their non-conference schedule last season for the most part going 11-2. Their only two losses came at the hands of Missouri and #16 Arizona State. Notable wins included Nebraska, Oregon State, UCF, and Saint Joseph’s. Of course their biggest non-conference win came against Duke as mentioned above.
In reality, a rather weak non-conference schedule made the Red Storm look better than they actually are as once they entered conference play, they struggled immensely. To be fair, the Big East is one of the best conferences in the country when it comes to basketball and includes the likes of Butler, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Xavier. Either way, St John’s won just four regular season conference games but as noted above knocked off #1 Villanova which came just days after defeating Duke. In the Big East tournament, the Red Storm defeated Georgetown in the opening round before falling to Xavier.
Notable players to watch:
- G Shamoire Ponds – JR
One of the best players in the country, Ponds over his first two seasons for St John’s has been nothing short of spectacular. After averaging over 17-points his freshman season, Ponds saw that average climb to 21.6 points per game last year to go along with 4.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game. A true game changer, Ponds can take over a game at a moments notice.
- F Marvin Clark II – SR
The senior forward had a career year last season averaging double-digits for the first time in his career with 12.5 points per game. The 6-foot-6 Missouri native also averaged 4.7 rebounds per game last season. He had a career high 24-points last season against DePaul and had three 20+ point contests for the season. He’s not a player who can take over a game like Ponds but he’ll inflict his fair share of damage on opposing teams.
- G Justin Simon – JR
The California native is a former Arizona Wildcat and is entering third season with the Red Storm. Simon last season averaged 12.1 points per game and 7.1 rebounds. Strong both offensively and defensively, Simon is the type of player that opposing coaches hate to play but love to have. Most nights he isn’t a threat to go completely off but he’s a threat to put up 20-25 points any given night. Between Ponds and Simon, the Jackets will have their hands full at guard.
Expectations entering 2018-19:
With the program improving year in and year out so far under Mullins. Each season brings a little loftier expectations for the Red Storm. This season, the expectations are to get above .500 and reach the 20 win plateau but of course the biggest goal is to get to the big dance in March. With the current trend of the program, that goal can not be ruled out to say the least. Returning their top three scorers should give the Red Storm a great chance at being a one or two loss team heading into their conference slate.
How the Yellow Jackets match-up:
Sure, the Red Storm struggled in their conference slate last season but ultimately, this is going to be one of the better teams the Jackets face in their non-conference slate and may only be behind Tennessee. St John’s is no pushover program and are highly capable of beating the Yellow Jackets and at this point are probably the better team. If the Jackets hope to beat St John’s they’ll need tremendous play out of their guards including Jose Alvarado and Curtis Haywood II not to mention depth and rotational players like Michael Devoe. Overall, the Yellow Jackets can certainly defeat St John’s but it will take a full-team effort.